The Need for Speed Doesn’t End in Winter – Enter Motorcycle Ice Racing
When we think about motorcycles, we tend to think about cruising down the highway in the summertime. The weather is hot, the sunlight hours are long, and the wind whipping by doesn’t hurt your face yet.
But any real gearhead knows that the need for speed doesn’t end when the snow starts falling and the wind is more punishing than forgiving. Wintertime is great for motorcycle ice racing and it’s not just a fad.
The cold weather is almost egging you on, don’t you want to take a ride? Better yet, don’t you want to race? Every rider knows that feeling of the itch you can’t scratch, and this is nothing new.
That’s why when Jack Frost comes to visit you can still see those dedicated racers hitting the frozen tracks with studded tires, kicking up the ice and having a great time. Motorcycle ice racing is one of the most exhilarating ways to feed the speed demon that lives inside of all of us.
So you know a little about motorcycle ice racing, but you’re curious and want to know more. Great! We’re here to share more about the sport’s long history in Europe, the racers in America, and why it’s definitely NOT a passing fad.
Motorcycle Ice Racing in Europe and the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme
The FIM is the global sanctioning body for motorcycle racing, governing races and organizations in six continents and over 100 countries. They were founded in Paris, France all the way back on December 21st, 1904 (happy belated 114th birthday!). The headquarters have moved several times and currently reside in Mies, Switzerland.
The first records of putting bikes on the ice happened in 1924 in Switzerland. Racetracks were made on frozen lakes with many of the same rules and regulations as Speedway racing. The bikes used studded tires to grip into the ice just like they would on a dirt track.
The first official motorcycle ice racing competition put on by the FIM was held in 1939 in Moscow. After the second world war, ice racing started to gain traction all across Eastern Europe. The first international competitions began to be held in the late 1950s.
The races used 500cc Speedway bikes, but eventually, new classes were added to the competition: 125cc, 350cc, and sidecar (because everybody has that friend who needs to be close to the action). The first FIM Ice Racing Cup was held in 1963. A Russian rider took the championship, and the Soviets dominated the sport for many years.
While the Europeans may have led the way in sanctioning these events, the North Americans weren’t far behind. And of course, they had to put their own spin on it.
Motorcycle Ice Racing in America
The American Motorcyclist Association is the governing body for American races, and it’s very similar to its European counterpart. The real difference in AMA racing is the type of bikes.
FIM races use Speedway bikes, which tend to have two-speed gearboxes and do not have front brakes. AMA races, on the other hand, feature motocross, or dirt bikes, but use the same studded tires to grip into the ice.
AMA races run on counter-clockwise oval tracks, as well as GP-style road courses that have both left and right turns. Turning can be pretty difficult in these environments, which is why spikes in the tires fan all the way out to the side. Riders can lean into turns, nearly scraping the surface of the ice. Check out this YouTube video to see just how incredibly low these racers can go.
The AMA holds yearly events called the Ice Race National Championship. There is a huge variety of events and races that happen. The motorcycle ice racing competitions are for riders as young as four years old and up. Vehicles in the competition range from lightly modified bikes and ATV’s to fully custom-built ice racers.
In 2019, the Championship Race will be held in Wisconson on January, 20th. There will be a 3-hour endurance race, as well as shorter 30-minute circuits for younger competitors.
Also, motorcycle ice racing has even become part of the yearly X-Games competition. Check out these Harley riders talking about riding and competing!
Motorcycle Ice Racing is Not Just a Passing Craze
It seems like almost as quickly as humans invented the motorcycle, we started racing them. We look for the thrills of death-defying speeds and being crowned the fastest seems as natural as the sky being blue and the grass being green.
As motorcycle riders, we’re always going to be a little on the fringe of the mainstream. We might not have the numbers that NASCAR does, but don’t let anyone tell you that all of this is going to just blow over. Racing bikes, on land or on the ice, is here to stay!
Finally, it’s important to realize that motorcycle ice racing is just about as safe as riding in the summer on the road, and twice as fun! So look out for those kooky riders hauling their bikes to the lake this winter, because there’s no reason the fun has to stop when the roads aren’t safe.